The Gopher basketball team finally figured out a way to get past the Michigan State Spartans on Thursday afternoon winning their Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinal 63-58. Reggie Lynch scored 16 points to lead the Gophers.
Minnesota jumped out to an early 8-2 lead over the Spartans on a couple of early buckets by Lynch. Minnesota seemed to figure out how to beat the Spartans on the pick and roll as Lynch got several gorgeous dunks off of screens. Michigan State would come back to tie the game at 10-10 and both teams would see-saw the rest of the first half with no team taking greater than a three point lead. Minnesota would play most of the first half without Jordan Murphy, who picked up two quick fouls. This helped Michigan State’s phenomenal freshman Miles Bridges have a big half. He would have 12 of the Spartans 26 first half points as Eric Curry just could not guard him one on one. The Gophers would retake the lead at the end of the half as Akeem Springs drilled a 27-foot three point shot with three seconds left to put Minnesota on top 28-26 at the break.
The early part of the second half would be similar to the first half with both teams going back and forth. Alvin Ellis scored with 15:23 left in the half to tie the game at 33. The Gophers would go on an 8-0 run capped by back to back three-pointers by Dupree McBrayer to go up 41-33 and it appeared the Gophers were in the drivers seat. Of course Michigan State would not agree as they gradually picked apart the Gopher lead and would tie the game at 49 on a Bridges alley oop. A Matt McQuaid three would give the Spartans a 52-50 lead, their first of the second half—-and last.
Minnesota would pound the ball inside and feed the hot hands. Lynch got two dunks and made two free throws and Murphy would add four points as the Gophers would go on a 8-2 run to retake the lead. The Gopher defense would hold tough down the stretch as the Spartans could only score four points in the last 2:23, which would not be enough. Amir Coffey would hit a free throw, and Nate Mason would put the icing on the cake as Minnesota would advance with a 63-58 victory.
A few notes from the game and a look ahead at tomorrow:
- The Gophers were getting killed on the offensive boards in the first half. The final totals were narrowed to 19-12 in favor of the Spartans, but at one point Michigan State had as many offensive rebounds as the Gophers had total rebounds in the first half. Credit to Coach Pitino and the team to try and correct some of that in the second half.
- Michigan State shot very poorly—a lot attributed to the Gopher defense, but they did shoot themselves in the foot. The Spartans shot only 32.8% for the game--and only 20% at 6-30 from behind the arc.
- Reggie Lynch was the Gopher MVP in this one. He finished with 16 points, five blocks and four rebounds. Most importantly he finished with just four fouls as his inside presence made a huge difference to the Gophers defense.
- Jordan Murphy bounced back from sitting most of the first half to have a huge second half for Minnesota. He ended up with a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
- Miles Bridges is good. Damn good. He finished with 20 points and seven rebounds. Lets all hope he goes to the NBA in the off-season.
- Minnesota won even though Nate Mason has a horrific day shooting the ball. He finsihed 2-14 on the game, but still recorded 10 points as he went 6-7 from the stripe. If he can find his shot again before the end of the tournament, Minnesota has as good a chance as any to win.
- Minnesota does look like they will miss Akeem Springs for at least tomorrow’s game. Springs appeared to injure an ankle with just under four minutes left in the game and had to be helped off the court. He appeared back on the Gopher bench at the end of the game, but on crutches. Even if its questionable, he should sit tomorrow and make sure he is 100% for the NCAA Tournament.
The Gophers will take on Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament Semifinals tomorrow after the Wolverines upset #1 seed Purdue in overtime. MIchigan will beplaying their third game in three days, so Minnesota will definately have the stamina advantage. Hopefully the Gophers can try and push the tempo and use their fresh legs to their advantage. It is Minnesota’s first Big Ten Tournament semifinal appearance since 2010.
The Gophers and Wolverines will tip off at Noon on CBS.